On a wing and a prayer

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a BEAUTIFUL old golden eagle is facing a death sentence after being grounded at her Kirkcaldy home because of an unexplained neurological condition.

Methusela, who is 36 years-old but could live for another 20, may have to be put down within two weeks unless £2000 can be found to carry out special scans to find out exactly what the problem affecting her balance is.

The grand old lady, who came to Elite Falconry in 2007 unable to fly after being taken from the wild as a chick and raised in captivity, was taught to fly from scratch by staff at the bird of prey centre outside Kirkcaldy.

From the outset her carers noticed that she leant slightly to the side, and last year this started to become more pronounced, so various tests were carried out, but nothing showed up and she continued to fly and live as normal.

However over the past few months the condition worsened to the point where she struggled to land correctly, was stumbling when placed on her perch in the wind or or the scales to be weighed.

Barry Blyther, head falconer at Elite, explained: “It got to the point where it wasn’t safe for her to fly any more and even a small gust of wind was enough to make her fall off her perch, so we had to stop her.

“She is not in any pain and still has a voracious appetite and enjoys “hunting” her food and loves seeing us each day, it is just her balance that is going, and we can see it deteriorating by the day.”

Barry said numerous tests had failed to diagnose the problem, but the country’s leading raptor vet who specialises in birds of prey has pinned it down to messages from the bird’s inner ear or spine not getting through correctly to her brain, causing her to lose her balance.

“We need a CAT scan of her skeleton and an MRI scan of her brain to detect exactly what the problem is, but unfortunately they will cost around £2000 and it is money we just don’t have. The vet has agreed to give his time for free, and it would be great to diagnose the problem, not just for the sake of Methusela, but also for birds of prey affected by this problem in the future.

“However we can’t let her go on indefinitely, and we have put a final date of under two weeks to have the scans done or else she will have to be put to sleep.

“At the moment she is often choosing to roost on the ground rather than on her perch and if she can’t fly then she doesn’t have much of a quality of life.”